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China’s Taobao launches regional e-shopping site for Southeast Asia

Terence Lee
Terence Lee
12:00 pm on Sep 24, 2013

Update: More information from the media event has been added.

Taobao Singapore Southeast Asia

Landing page for Taobao’s Southeast Asia page.

Taobao, the popular consumer-to-consumer shopping site from China, announced today the launch of its Southeast Asian site as part of the company’s regional expansion.

Already, the Taobao marketplace has signed up 280,000 people in Singapore, says Daphne Lee, director of Taobao International Business. She adds that most of the growth “has been generated through organic interest of e-commerce platforms”. Meanwhile, Malaysia has 210,000 registered Taobao users.

A dedicated hotline for Singapore residents has been set up. While Taobao is predominantly in Mandarin Chinese, a dual-language registration page will be available next month. First-time users can also access an English quick-start guide.

A translation feature is now available for major languages in Southeast Asia. However, it applies only to links and navigational elements, not product descriptions, which is harder to work on since Taobao hosts millions of merchants. Currency conversion is only available at the payments page.

The website emphasizes different products from the main Taobao entity, with home decorations, wedding items, female fashion, and consumer electronics placed front and center.

On the backend, Taobao has also launched a platform for its logistic partners to offer the International Parcel Forwarding Service (IPFS) in Singapore, just as it does in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. IPFS enables merchants on the platform to send their goods to buyers who are overseas.

This means that buyers in Singapore would no longer need to rely on daigou services, which are third-party, unofficial intermediaries that export goods from Taobao in China to other countries. Finally, the marketplace also supports consolidated shipping, which means a buyer’s goods gets transported as a package instead of individually. While slower, this method cuts down on shipping costs, possibly up to 50 percent.

Alipay comes to SEA too

Taobao has set up a Singapore office to push its regional expansion. It will be promoting online payments through Alipay, the e-commerce giant’s payment gateway. It is already offering the Alipay Purchase Card, which enables purchases without using credit cards, through AXS terminals in Singapore.

On the Taobao website, users must use an Alipay account to pay for goods as PayPal is not supported. Alipay accepts Visa, Mastercard, and JCB. Singapore users can also link their DBS bank account to the payment gateway.

Outside of China, Taobao has already expanded to Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. In Hong Kong, it has 1.4 million registered users.

Taobao is owned by Alibaba Group, which altogether has some 500 million registered users on all its e-shopping sites. Alibaba generated $170 billion in sales last year, outpacing Amazon’s $61 billion (PDF link).

Both still cannot compare to brick-and-mortar retailer Walmart, which came in at $447 billion last year, signaling that e-commerce has much room for growth.

Taobao’s launch ceremony in Singapore was attended by guests Zheng Chao, minister counsellor of the China Embassy, Jayson Goh, executive director of infocomms and media at Singapore’s Economic Development Board, and Eddie Wu, senior vice-president of Alibaba.

According to Wu, Alibaba’s interest beyond China was sparked by demand for Taobao-hosted products from places like Canada, Brazil, and Southeast Asia. Winter clothing, it turned out, was one of the top product categories for Southeast Asian users.

Heading business development in the region is Kelvin Lee, who is based in Singapore.

taobao singapore event

Taobao launch event in Singapore

(Editing by Paul Bischoff and Steven Millward)

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Have Your Say
  • Taobao Buyer

    **** NOT RECOMMEND ****
    My purchased experience:
    I don’t know end up how much I am going to pay due to
    1) The currency is in RMB, need to wait for CC bill to know
    2) Overseas delivery fees is not known until it reached the transfer port and it is in RMB too

    You need to go and check when it reach transfer port and make another payment for overseas delivery. There is time limit. Charges apply for overdue stay at transfer port

    I purchased 4 items end up receive only 3 items. Who can I claim with?

    You need to download their chat apps to personally contact courier or seller and all these need conversation in chinese

    Taobao is just a platform and there is no way you can ask help from Taoabo. The help chat is machine answer. No hotline for Taobao and there is a Singapore number for courier service. It doesn’t work

    The package tractability is until transfer port. After that no update. To seller, sending to transfer port is the destination. They don’t know the ultimate overseas delivery

  • taobaofan

    yes! i attempted purchasing from taobao website straight but it was very confusing and inconvenient. in addition, we had to converse with the buyers in chinese which is very difficult for some of us. shipping is not calculated at payment page also, thus very hard to estimate total cost of product….